Ex Managing Director of the Federal Airports of Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr Richard Aisuebeogun has said that there are huge opportunities for the sustainability of airlines and that for Africa to realise these possibilities, the Federal Governments must prioritise aviation especially commercial air transport.
This is just as he urged airline operators in the country to build airlines that would stand the test of time by seeking strong financial partnership and welcome investors into investing in their entities.
Aisuebeogun’s comment is coming on the heels of a report on the survey carried out in May, 2016, which stated that in the past 12 years nearly 37 airlines were launched in Africa, almost all of them had failed and that 25 of this number were from Nigeria.
He stated that presently only about 12 Africa airlines have inter-continental operations, stressing that the more, “We realise that airlines are not a luxury but a necessity in our remote villages and hub cities, the more we can change our thinking and make sustained efforts to ensure that airlines are supported and developed for the accelerated development of our economies and improvement of our livelihoods.”
The former FAAN Managing Director, who is one of the very few qualified and graduate of (Global) International Aviation Professional (IAP), noted that the potential of aviation in Africa is under-utilised, which means that there are huge opportunities for the airlines to thrive.
He however posited that for the region to realise these possibilities, aviation especially commercial air transport must be prioritised by the Federal Government.
He disclosed that today, air transport is recognised as an important element in the achievement of the United Nation’s Vision 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to improve individual livelihoods in all corners of the globe.
He added that air transport is also vital to achieving the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, which seeks to transform Africa’s economy from its current largely underdeveloped state to hugely develop economies.
Africa , he said has the potential to be a significant force in global aviation on the back of robust economic growth forecasts, with Africa having among the fastest growing economies worldwide.
He decried a situation where African airlines carry only l.3 per cent of global air cargo, adding that these small proportions contributed by Africa to global air cargo shows that Africa has a huge potential to grow.
The ex FAAN boss noted that the performance of the African aviation industry is lagging behind those of the rest of the world at less than 3 per cent of global Revenue Passenger miles (RPKs).
According to him, “The growth is heavily constrained by the high industry costs, inadequate infrastructure at several airports, slow implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (liberalization of Africa’s airspace), lack of a single traffic rights negotiating body with respect to third parties like the EU. Nonetheless, demand for air transport has increased steadily over the past years with passenger numbers and freight traffic growing significantly.”
He also pointed out that the cost of operation in Africa’s environment is among the greatest challenges to African airlines and that these include: relatively high taxes, charges and fees, arguing that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also pointed out that these high charges are part of the reasons why airlines have short life span in Africa.
He urged the Federal Governments to encourage diversification to empower locals to stimulate patronage of carriers, adding that improved infrastructure would not only turn cities into hubs, but stimulate passenger traffic.
According to him, “Competition and liberalisation are excellent but airlines must be equipped to compete. With an economy already manifesting signs of adversity, with lower currency, high airport charges, taxes and fees in Africa, airlines are already at a disadvantage before they enter into competition. That is why, even with the best aircraft among African airlines’ fleet, they can hardly compete but pull out of lucrative routes. This was responsible for Arik Air pulling out of Dubai. This factor will discourage more airlines from venturing into lucrative routes.”